Modified: December 12, 2022

Top Seven Most Common Amusement-park Injuries

Do you need to make a personal injury claim over an amusement park incident? Did someone you love get injured or killed on a roller coaster? Amusement parks like Six Flags, Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, Cedar Point, and Kings Island are some of the popular amusement parks across the United States. Whether you’re a child or an elderly person, the amusement park provides entertainment for all ages, from roller coasters to bumper cars, spinning rides, water slides, and many more. Let’s explore amusement park injury claims with our award winning personal injury attorney, Michael Ehline, Esq.

The sad reality about amusement parks is that they can be a serious threat to anyone, especially if there is negligence involved when operating these rides. One can suffer any type of amusement park injury, from minor injuries like bruises and bumps to major injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, fractures, and even wrongful death.

Amusement Park Rides and Your Life

You may think that amusement park injuries are not common, but the reality is that they do occur, and when an accident occurs at an amusement park, the repercussions can lead to serious injuries. In 2019, there were 1,299 accidents at amusement parks in the United States that resulted in serious injuries. That’s about 3.7 injuries per million visitors who could get on defective rollercoasters and get into an amusement park accident!

Ehline Law is a personal injury law firm that not only helps injured victims know their legal rights but also creates awareness surrounding legal issues. With more than 44 million annual visitors to amusement parks across North America, focusing on amusement park safety should be a number one priority.

If you suffered injuries at an amusement park, speak to our personal injury attorney today to find out if you’re eligible for compensation.

The Worst Amusement Park Mishaps in US History

Here are some of the worst amusement park accidents in the United States’ history.

Wrongful Death at Silver Dollar City

Located near Branson, Missouri, Silver Dollar City opened in the 1960s, welcoming guests from all over the country to their 100-acre park with more than 40 amusement park rides. The city became a center of attraction for Missouri residents. However, in 1980, an accident occurred, sparking similar accident fear among other visitors.

On July 9th, 1980, James Polley, a 23-year-old boy, went on the Fire in the Hole roller coaster with other visitors. The workers were conducting a maintenance check and were not aware that Polley and other passengers were already on the ride. They switched the ride from the main track to the maintenance track, where there was a low-hanging door.

Upon realizing their mistake, the workers started screaming at the passengers to duck down. Unfortunately, Polley did not react in time, sustaining serious injuries that led to his death.

The Six Flags 2007 Tragedy

Six Flags in Louisville introduced the “Superman: Tower of Power” ride, which would take passengers up high at 177 feet before dropping them 154 feet at 54 mph and easing to a stop around 20 feet above the ground. It was safe and extremely thrilling until the 2007 incident.

On June 22, 2007, passengers, including a 13-year-old girl, boarded the ride, which followed the exact pattern: take passengers high up before dropping them at high speeds and then ease to a stop. Unfortunately, a mishap occurred when a cable snapped and wrapped around the young girl’s legs, slicing both her feet off.

When the ride came to an end, passengers noticed a gruesome scene and started screaming, warranting the attention of the employees at Six Flags. The young girl was in shock as she sat on the ride, silent, without both her feet. The park management immediately called medical services, transporting the girl to a nearby hospital to treat her injuries. The incident sparked an investigation that resulted in the ride shutting down.

A Ride Derailment at Daytona Beach Broadwalk

On June 14th, 2018, passengers boarded the Sand Blaster roller coaster at Daytona Beach Broadwalk in Florida. The ride was going fine until the roller coaster car derailed, causing injuries to six of the 10 passengers on the ride. Two of the passengers fell from the car onto the ground, resulting in serious injuries. The crews immediately went on to rescue the passengers and called emergency services to transport the injured to a hospital to treat their injuries.

An investigation revealed that the ride was operating at an excessive speed, and there was significant damage to the track and axle systems, causing a derailment.

The 2016 Spinning Ride Nightmare at the Cinco de Mayo Festival

Accidents do not only occur in fixed amusement parks but also in those that are set up at festivals.

At the Cinco de Mayo festival in Omaha, Nebraska, there were many amusement park rides for children to enjoy on the joyous occasion. Unfortunately, the festival turned into a horror show when eleven-year-old Elizabeth Gilreath got her hair stuck in one of the rides and was violently whipped around for 10 minutes as she screamed in excruciating pain.

The force from the violent jerks ripped her scalp right off. The crews stopped the ride and had her transported to a nearby hospital. After several surgeries, the surgeons were able to reattach her scalp and treat her damaged skin. She also had an eye injury due to the amusement park accident, but her vision gradually improved. However, the horror of the incident remains fresh in her mind, even years after the dreadful accident.

Fire Ball Ride Mid-air Malfunction in 2017

On July 26, 2017, an accident occurred at the Ohio state fair on its opening day. The ride broke down in mid-air, resulting in the death of one person and injuries to seven others. The emergency services team transported the seven injured people to a nearby hospital to treat their injuries.

A year before this incident, three girls fell from a Ferris wheel in Tennessee while a boy died on a water slide in Kansas.

7 Most Common Amusement Park Injuries

Some of the injuries sustained in a car accident can also occur on amusement park rides in the event of an accident. Depending on the amusement park ride you’re on when the accident happens, there are several injuries a victim can sustain. Thrilling rides where your body gets thrown around increase the risk of injuries that you may sustain in an amusement park accident.

The top seven most common amusement park injuries are:

  • Broken bones
  • Brain and head injuries
  • Whiplash and neck injuries
  • Spinal cord and back injuries
  • Lacerations and bruises
  • Drowning (in water slides or rides)
  • Soft tissue injuries

Injured victims must report any injuries sustained at amusement parks and seek medical help immediately.

Causes of Amusement Park Injuries

Over the years, thousands of people have suffered injuries, and around three to four people die from amusement park accidents annually. Many factors contribute to amusement park accidents resulting in serious injuries and even wrongful death to guests.

Here are the common causes of amusement park injuries:

  • Improper design of a ride that engineers did not rectify during the design phase.
  • Construction companies failed to properly follow the design plan or blueprints, resulting in construction flaws.
  • Mechanical failures such as track issues, safety belt issues, detachments, and more.
  • Letting too many people on a ride can cause weight issues, resulting in operational failures.
  • Negligent employees that do not exert reasonable care when loading or unloading, or operating the ride.
  • Reckless behavior by guests or visitors on rides or not following the safety instructions relayed by the amusement park employees.
  • Some rides can be extreme and come with health warnings, but passengers with health issues choose to ignore these warning signs.
  • No matter the safety precautions an amusement park management takes, there is still a slight risk of accidents due to no fault of the amusement park or the guests. A person may feel dizzy from a ride and get up too fast, resulting in a trip or fall accident.

According to statistics, 34% of the accidents were due to a fall, while 18% were due to the visitors hitting something or getting hit by an object or obstacle.

Which Organization Regulates Amusement Parks?

To ensure that the rides are safe, several agencies conduct inspections and regulate amusement parks. Amusement parks that move from one location to the next, carnivals, and fairs are all regulated by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

However, fixed amusement parks such as Six Flags or Disney, among many others, are not regulated by the CPSC but by local and state agencies. Since Disney has several amusement parks across the United States, they may have different regulations at each park depending on the state the park is in.

Since the 1980s, there has been a growing concern among operators and lawmakers about the lack of regulations. With powerful amusement park lobbyists, including amusement park owners, it’s highly unlikely that injured victims will receive any additional protection from the government against negligent park operators.

Inadequate Data on Amusement Park Injuries

In 2016, CNN reached out to the International Association for Amusement Parks (IAAP) to gather some statistics related to injuries and accidents. The association stated that 335 million people visit amusement parks in the United States annually, with the likelihood of one of those people suffering from serious injuries being one in 16 million.

In 2016, the IAAP conducted its annual safety survey and found 1,508 injuries in 2015, 32% more than the previous year (1,146 injuries in 2014). However, the data did not include any reported deaths.

The annual statistics provided by the IAAP are not a true representation of the injuries sustained and deaths due to amusement park rides in the country. Firstly, the data only considers safety data collected at fixed-site amusement parks and not mobile amusement parks such as carnivals and state fairs.

The US CPSC in 2016 estimated a worrisome 30,900 injuries related to amusement park rides, both in fixed and mobile amusement parks. This figure is also not an actual count but a number extracted from emergency room data across the country. The commission further went on to state that they were aware of the 22 deaths since the year 2010, excluding water parks and water slides.

There is inconsistent data collection that does not paint a true picture of the amusement park injuries and accidents in the country. There is a need for a coordinated federal effort to gather data effectively from all amusement parks to help ensure safety.

State laws have made it difficult for a corroborative federal effort to allow for better surveillance and safety standards. Currently, there is no official mechanism in place for amusement parks to report incidents, injuries, and deaths, severely understating the number of injuries and deaths from amusement park rides in the United States.

Inconsistent Regulations Causing Amusement Park Accidents

The US CPSC is responsible for introducing regulations for mobile amusement parks, but it is the local and state agencies that are responsible for inspecting these mobile parks. As mentioned before, there is no national body that oversees the regulations for fixed-site amusement parks. These are left to the state and local government, and some states do not even regulate fixed-site amusement parks.

Before the 1980s, the CPSC would oversee the fixed-site rides, but since the 1980s, this authority has moved to the state government. Although the CPSC is responsible for overseeing mobile parks, it is a small agency and, because of a lack of resources, they are unable to oversee every fair or mobile amusement park set up.

An independent safety inspector, Walter Reiss, stated that once the team assembles a mobile amusement park ride, they only conduct a visual inspection. There is non-destructive testing on the rides for assessing any damage, but that is only done on the ride when it is disassembled at a shop.

Safety Guidelines You Should Follow at an Amusement Park

When going to an amusement park, it is important to follow these guidelines to ensure your and your children’s safety.

  • Make sure you follow the recommended weight, height, and other restrictions for a ride before going on or letting your children ride on one.
  • Make sure to follow instructions provided by the crew at the ride, including seating order and loading instructions.
  • Make sure your children keep their hands and feet inside the ride to avoid hitting any obstacles.
  • If you feel that your children will not follow the rules, keep them away from the ride. It is best to avoid such situations that pose an increased risk of an accident.
  • If you don’t feel safe about a ride, trust your instinct and choose a different activity.
  • Always ensure safety equipment such as seatbelts and safety bars.

It is crucial for parents to know about their state’s amusement park regulations before deciding whether they want to take the risk or put their children at risk.

If you or your children suffered injuries at an amusement park, contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Amusement park lawsuits can often be challenging, and having an experienced attorney by your side increases your chances of recovering compensation.

If you suffered injuries at an amusement park from an accident that was not your fault, contact us at +(833) LETS-SUE for a free consultation with our trusted personal injury lawyer.

Our attorneys have extensive experience handling amusement park injury cases and have recovered more than $150 million in verdicts and settlements. We can do the same for you. Get in touch today to understand your legal options.

Top Notch American Injury Lawyer, Michael Ehline

Michael Ehline

Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.

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